Investigator’s firm could receive $500K for Ohio State investigation

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer watches their NCAA college spring football game Saturday, April 14, 2018, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
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COLUMBUS – A New York law firm hired to conduct an investigation for The Ohio State University could receive $500,000 for its efforts, 10 Investigates has learned.

The money still has to be approved by the state’s controlling board, which could occur at a meeting later this month.

According to documents filed with Ohio Attorney General’s Office, the law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton could receive as much as a half million dollars for investigating issues for OSU.

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Mary Jo White, the former chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, has years’ worth of experience investigating high-profile matters, including representing numerous boards, organizations and schools in connection with sensitive sexual harassment and sexual abuse investigations, her firm wrote in response to the attorney general’s request for special counsel.

“Our team brings a wealth of experience to these sensitive matters, especially in its interactions with witnesses, law enforcement and other stakeholders and includes a former member of both the Sex Crimes and Domestic Violence Units of the Manhattan DA’s office,” the law firm wrote in responding to the Ohio Attorney General’s request for special counsel for “a single-matter.”

A spokesman for the Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office would not specify what the scope of their work involved, although we know the university has hired White to lead the investigation surrounding Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer and how he handled allegations of domestic abuse involving his former wide receivers coach, Zach Smith.

The university is also dealing with two other scandals – including allegations by former athletes that were molested by a former team physician, Dr. Richard Strauss, who died from suicide several years ago. The university also is dealing with the fallout over allegations that a former club diver, Estee Pryor, was coerced and sexually abused by her former assistant dive coach, Will Bohonyi, who the university later fired in 2014 for violating university policy. The incident was never shared publicly and university police did not notify state or federal prosecutors despite the diver’s attorney alleging they possessed photographs and video of her involved in sex acts while she was underage. The university police closed their 2014 investigation at Pryor’s request but re-opened in January of 2018 after she went back to authorities with concerns. Neither Strauss nor Bohonyi have been criminally charged.

Courtney Smith, Zach Smith’s ex-wife, has alleged that she was the victim of domestic abuse. Zach Smith has denied those allegations. Records show that Zach Smith was arrested in 2009 for aggravated battery involving Courtney. At the time, Zach was working as an assistant for Urban Meyer at the University of Florida. The charges were dropped nine days later.

In 2013, Dublin Police records show Smith was arrested for drunken driving, but those charges were later reduced. Powell Police have recorded numerous responses to complaints from both Courtney and Zach Smith over the past several years. Of critical importance is an October 2015 incident in which Courtney alleged she was the victim of domestic abuse. Zach Smith denied that and was never arrest or charged.

Meyer was placed on paid administrative investigation Aug. 1, the same day Courtney Smith went public with her allegations in two separate interviews claiming that she told Urban Meyer’s wife Shelley about her domestic abuse. Meyer had told reporters in late July that he was unaware of the specifics of the 2015 incident but later released a statement saying his words failed him and that he followed the proper procedures in reporting what he knew at the time to his superiors at OSU.

Zach Smith was fired by OSU in late July.

The university is expecting to wrap up its investigating into the matter by Aug. 19.

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